Numerous exhibitions, performances, and cultural events have been planned to coincide with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, showcasing the rich variety of traditional and contemporary culture in Tokyo. With foreign visitors unable to attend in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have gathered below a number of virtual exhibitions, videos, and articles that allow you to enjoy some of the cultural events that have taken place in recent months from home.
Get a taste of Noh—Japan’s oldest performing art form
Noh has been performed continuously since the 14th century, predating Japan’s other famous traditional theater form, Kabuki, by several centuries. This 2019 performance of the famous “Sumidagawa” play was held at the Kita Noh Theatre for the benefit of foreign audiences, with subtitles and a lecture to help newcomers follow the plot and understand the use of masks and gestures to convey emotion.
Comedic theater and Geisha dances beloved by the people of Edo
Edo was home to a rich array of performing arts that flourished in the city’s entertainment districts. In this video, enjoy an event featuring two of the most popular and timeless forms. The first section of this video features rakugo performers telling comical stories in a style of casual theater known as yose (no subtitles). In the second half, traditional geisha dances once common in the kagai geisha districts of Edo are performed to musical accompaniment by an ensemble of shamisen and other traditional Japanese instruments.
Wander through the old streets of Kagurazaka
Kagurazaka flourished in the Edo Period as an entertainment district outside the castle gates. Today, its narrow streets, shrines and temples retain a nostalgic charm, and traditional culinary and performing arts continue to thrive in its many establishments. In this video series, follow knowledgeable guides as they take you on a journey through this area rich with the cultural history of Edo and Tokyo, and interview some of the performing artists and community members who carry on its many traditions.
Edo’s protectors from pandemic—”amabie” and other strange creatures
People in the Edo Period faced constant epidemics. The thriving print culture of the era led to the popularity of drawings and prints of fantastical creatures that were said to offer protection against the plague and other infectious diseases. In this article, a curator at the Edo-Tokyo Museum shares the origins these monsters and creatures, including the creature known as “amabie” that has once again become a popular icon during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dance on the move with DANCE TRUCK TOKYO
One of the Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13 projects, DANCE TRUCK TOKYO transformed the cargo space of a delivery truck into a mobile stage for dance performance. Curated by Yoko Higashino, Yukio Suzuki and Tsuyoshi Shirai, known as trailblazing choreographers and dancers, the truck traveled to various locations in Tokyo and hosted bold and experimental performances by a range of modern dancers.
The living history of Tokyo—At the Speed of Light
Argentinian theater director Marco Canale has staged unconventional theater performances around the world that probe the history and memory of cities through the experiences of elderly participants. Canale brought his unique process to Tokyo in the leadup to the 2020 Olympics, working with local seniors to create a theatrical performance unique to Tokyo. In this short video series, seniors living in Tokyo share their personal histories.
Rhizomatiks’ bold performance and artistic practice
As part of the Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13, artist collective Rhizomatiks held an experimental multimedia live performance in Tokyo’s famous Zojoji Temple, at the foot of Tokyo Tower. Enjoy this video that captures the sensory power of thousands of lights changing in the course of performance as the participants blends together with a dynamic sound and dance.
Butoh—Japan’s celebrated modern dance form and Tokyo Real Underground
Tokyo Real Underground was an experimental dance festival staged in Tokyo’s underground spaces, exploring “underground” through its historical time and space. Delivered online, these newly recorded performances give viewers a taste of Butoh, a unique form of modern dance inspired by traditional arts that arose after World War II in Japan and gained recognition around the world. You can watch it free by email registration until August 15th.
Edo-Tokyo Museum Permanent Exhibition 360 degree panorama
The Edo-Tokyo Museum is the best place to discover the character of life in the city over the centuries. The museum’s main exhibition features intricate dioramas of the streets and buildings of Edo’s castle town, as well as full-size replicas of commoner living quarters, theaters, and buildings from Tokyo’s transformation into a modern metropolis. This 360-degree panorama tour allows you to experience the museum’s displays step by step as you explore the exhibition hall.
The Mount Fuji Challenges: Hokusai and Hiroshige online tour
The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai are among the most well-known images in art history. All of these works, including all 46 images in the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series, were exhibited together in the gallery. This exhibition at Edo-Tokyo Museum also probed the connection between Hokusai and a younger generation artist who eventually became a master himself: Utagawa Hiroshige, and the challenges facing these artists in their time.
Color Sumo Woodblock Prints and Edo Culture at Edo Tokyo Museum
Sumo, now a world-famous symbol of Japanese culture, traces its origins as a professional sport to tournaments held at Ekoin Temple and Kokugikan in Ryogoku during the Edo and Meiji Periods. Coinciding with the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku is holding a special exhibition that uses woodblock prints to explore the connection between this sport and the artistic and cultural life of Edo. ［Download the Guidebook］
History of Early Japanese Photography online gallery tour
Enjoy an in-depth video tour through the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum’s exhibition “History of Early Japanese Photography: Kantō Region, Images of Japan, 1853-1912.” Writer and researcher Alice Gordenker explores the photographic technology and culture that swept into Japan along with the opening of treaty ports during the Bakumatsu period and became established during the Meiji period. Images include portraits of oftentimes delighted samurai, rare views of Edo and other areas taken by foreign visitors, and photographs from the earliest photographic studios in Japan.